Interview

Royce White: "If advocacy makes me ineligible to play in the NBA, so be it"

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What have you been up to lately?

Royce White: I’m putting all my energies and focus into my humanitarian ambitions, along with entrepreneurial ventures in my hometown of Twin Cities, Minnesota. Entrepreneurial ventures that are in harmony with my humanitarian beliefs, which is possible, despite common corporate culture and practice. It’s just time in society right now for those who have the will and stomach for social change to really engage in it. We’ll need all the able participants we can get, if we hope to transform the chaos that exists today.

Can you elaborate on the entrepeneurial ventures?

RW: I’ve always had a great interest in diversified investments and conglomerates. Beyond that, I look forward to putting my energies into not only the investments, but the creativity that goes into products and brands.

How’s a regular day for you right now?

RW: A regular day for me consists of many hours of reading, writing and planning. Phone calls and emails, as I try to introduce and align myself with as many like-minded individuals as I can find.

What are your immediate goals – basketball-wise and outside of basketball?

RW: One of my immediate goals is to not limit my direction. Basketball-wise, I plan to resurface in a competitive place. I have signed on to join fellow NBA players in the new Champions League this coming spring and summer. I think this league is an amazing opportunity for professional basketball to completely empower the players, while using charity as a structural backbone. I think that’s the game’s true purpose, all sports really, community empowerment and rally.

Are NBA types reaching out to you to see what’s up with you?

RW: Haven’t heard much from any NBA teams. It isn’t surprising, although very disappointing.

How hard is that to stomach?

RW: As a life-long fan and participant in sports, it’s somewhat frustrating to see politics disrupt the purity of the game.

How often are you working out right now?

RW: I work out to keep myself healthy.

How are you feeling physically and mentally?

RW: Great.

Do you feel mental health is more on the radar for NBA teams now than it was when you were drafted?

RW: I think mental health has been on the radar long before I ever came around. Athletes discussing it openly, making the topic increasingly harder to ignore is definitely a reality. Teams are run as a business, players are treated like commodities. Unless creativity is implemented to maintain proper attitude and practice, players’ wellness will always be at odds with the nature of sports industry. Granted the same can be said for most industries.

If you were in charge of dealing with this issue in the NBA, what would be your first measure?

RW: I would start by admitting that something needed to be done. Then I would assemble the best minds in comprehensive health to help build a policy that could give the entire league, not just the players, a real chance at getting the proper support.

You were one of the guys mentioned for the AmeriLeague last summer. How did you get involved with that and what happened?

RW: They reached out, we were hopeful that it was going to be a good opportunity. It ended up not being the case. I can’t say much more than that because of the possibility of future legal action.

Did you consider the D-League?

RW: Of course I considered it, but it isn’t a separate entity… The shortcomings of the NBA’s mental health policy and inclusion don’t exclude the D-League. Besides that, I think many basketball minds know where I belong in terms of my ability and skill. If advocacy makes me ineligible to play in the NBA, so be it.

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You spent time with Rockets, Sixers, Kings and Clippers. Where did you feel more comfortable?

RW: They were all very different atmospheres. My career has always been followed by the elephant in the room of mental health and mental health policy. I enjoyed both my stints in the D-League, if you get a chance to speak with anybody who played with me in Reno, at a dinner before I went back to Sacramento to join the Kings, I told the guys I’d be back. What’s interesting is, despite the tumultuous nature of my career thus far, I’ve developed some great relationships with people.

How deeply do you think fellow NBA players understood your situation and the things you were saying with regards to the need of changes in mental health policy in the league?

RW: I appreciate the current players and ex players that expressed support. A lot of guys probably didn’t fully understand the conversation. I can look back now and say it was really cool for Coach Kerr to say he respected what I was doing. He was just commentating then, still a world champion player, now a world champion coach. It’s really interesting, with all the censorship in today’s media, authentic moments like that still can’t be totally suppressed… I’ll explain what I mean by that, in that very article where Coach Kerr expressed respect, USA Today called my communication through Twitter a rant. That’s grade A censorship, in my opinion. To imply that I was ranting, because I was challenging the status quo and speaking through an unfiltered medium is an example of some of the more irresponsible parts of publication and journalism. Even more, I don’t believe that Jeff Zillgitt is the one who classified it a rant. There is no policy, there needs to be one. We need to more careful than to label legitimate requests for reform “ranting”.

Not sure if USA Today used that word, but I know we at HoopsHype did call it a rant on Twitter and so did other media outlets. What other mistakes do you think some of us in the media have made when discussing this situation?

RW: The No. 1 issue I had with the media coverage was different outlets saying, “The issue is important, but he better get playing.” If the issue is important, then it’s important. It deserves appropriate attention. The entertainment value that the game holds in our life can’t overshadow serious social issues regarding health. That’s just ludicrous to me.

It’s actually been a commonly used term by various outlets, anytime players or other public figures take to their social media to discuss serious issues. So I get it, I just think we have such a huge responsibility in journalism and media today. I mean, Adrian Wojnarowski, who a lot of people believe to be one of the best NBA journalists, said I was lost and confused. Then admitted that my cause and fight was noble with noble intentions, all in one article in his coverage of the situation. It’s seems a bit paradoxical to call a young man lost and confused, whilst calling his actions noble, and even more, nobly intended. Bigger picture, though, with how fast information is being shared, and how impactful it is, the urgency to exhibit more care with our media and messaging is as great of a social issue as mental health. Actually, they’re sort of tied at the hip in many ways. There is a good example of one of my entrepreneurial ventures.

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Do you feel you made any mistake yourself? Anything you would have done differently?

RW: In hindsight, this issue was so complex that 140-character tweets in rapid succession might have been distorting the situation. If I could do it again, I probably would’ve written an open letter, or a number of them, regarding the multitude of issues. There is still a lot that went on that I didn’t discuss out of respect for a number of people, in hopes that a middle ground could be found. If you go look back and look at any of my quotes or “rants”, I was saying the same things I said in my recent letter. Asking for acknowledgment and consideration for a medical condition that affects half our population globally.

Tell us about your foundation Anxious Minds. What are you trying to accomplish with it?

RW: Information, diagnosis, support, policy. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since college, so I’m not putting any limits on the resource it could be in terms of support and advocacy for a demographic that’s around 46 percent globally.

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